Given the high demand for the world's natural resources, there is a great need to ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns on a global scale, while also supporting the communities that provide access to the world’s most desired ingredients.
Unfortunately, many supply chains, including palm oil, have been associated with unsustainable practices. But palm can be an efficient, clean and sustainable crop if cultivated in a responsible manner. It can also help support family farmers, cultivate strong communities and foster healthy environmental farming practices.
Because at least half of the packaged items (everything from cookies to soap) sold in America’s grocery stores contain palm oil, it makes a difference when this natural resource is produced with accountability and transparency throughout the supply chain. When it’s produced sustainably, palm can help bring conscious products to the market, while supporting the places it came from.
Respecting Colombia through sustainable palm supply chains
Colombia is a place making sustainable palm oil a reality. As the second most biodiverse country in the world, the region is rich with animals, insects, plants and flowers, vibrancy reflecting a dynamic culture of rich history, heritage and heart.
“Colombia is music, Colombia is nature, Colombia is love,” shares Patricia Apreza, a Colombian who has worked for palm oil producer Daabon for more than 12 years. Daabon, a 100-year-old family-owned company, has been growing palm and producing organic and sustainable palm oil in Colombia for more than two generations. Its supply chain is completely vertically integrated, which ensures full traceability for responsible brands and products, and supports the land on which it is grown and the people who produce it.
Sustainability is a key component of Daabon’s corporate mission, and it’s an ethic shared by Daabon’s employees throughout the organization. “For me, sustainability is respect,” says Apreza, “respect for all forms of life. Working with nature, and never against it.”
The company considers social responsibility to be another key aspect of its responsible business model. For example, it supports many family farmers, teaching them how to grow palm in addition to their other crops (such as fruit and cacao), and supporting them in attaining third-party certifications, which allows them to earn a premium through access to international markets. Manuel Torres is one of those farmers. With his father and brother, Torres cultivates 14 acres of palm on their plot. Their family farm grows everything organically, and the palm adds welcome income. There are hundreds of other family farmers with similar stories.
Daabon also believes that it is critical to support positive change and growth on a national level; to foster peace and encourage prosperity in the country it calls home. For the last 50 years, the Colombian farmlands have been the main stage of armed conflict, leaving many people directly affected by violence and loss. A peace treaty was recently signed, and yet there is much to heal, as people from both sides begin to live together and work side by side despite the tumultuous history shared between them. Daabon is encouraging a process of peaceful reintegration through programs on its farms for its workers, but also in the local communities (through school programs, support of cultural dance groups and other initiatives) in an effort to support peace in a productive and meaningful way.
Sustainability, from nuts to fish to fruit
Beyond palm, Colombia is a land of many other sustainable products cultivated with smart farming practices and conservation strategies. For example, Daabon also produces Fair Trade certified bananas, organic cacao and other responsibly-farmed crops.
Columbian kahai nut oil is becoming known for its anti-aging properties, with new technologies focused on how to cultivate the trees in a sustainable way, using reforestation patterns that allow for a renewable and reliable growing supply of nuts and oil.
Another Colombian-based company is extracting a natural blue coloring, used for foods, beverages and cosmetics, from the edible Jagua fruit, which grows in the rainforest. The industry can help some of the poorest communities in the region get work and fair pay.
The country is also home to one of the greatest variety of fish (as well as birds) in the world. Recent government efforts have helped to protect the sustainability of its fisheries and the incomes they generate.
With palm oil leading the pack, these emerging efforts and industries ladder up to a greater mission that is strong in Colombia, according to Torres: protecting the planet. “We must take care of what we have. Care for nature, because nature is what we have. Every day, we have to be united, to keep moving forward and to never forget the land.”